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On 10 October, workers at the Liansheng moulding factory in Guangzhou signed a collective agreement that forced the company to do something it had steadfastly refused to for the last two decades – pay workers the severance pay they were entitled to. Photograph of the Liansheng workers from Weibo.
Trade unions are invisible and ineffective in four factories in Shenzhen that have previously been recognised by the government as leaders in protecting their workers’ rights, according to undercover investigations conducted by a group of local university students.
In summer 2013, a group of students from nine universities went undercover to assess the state of enterprise trade union reform in Shenzhen. They investigated five factories and found the trade unions to be of little or no use in protecting workers rights.
When addressing the 16th national congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke about deepening and accelerating economic reforms as well as enhancing efforts to protect workers' rights.
Wu Guijun, a 40-year-old migrant worker and father of two, has been detained for nearly five months and faces possible criminal prosecution after staging protests against his employer and petitioning the local government in Shenzhen.  
Last month, 19 striking workers at a jewellery factory in the Guangzhou suburb of Panyu were sacked without any compensation. Three of the workers were pregnant and two were nursing mothers.
Beijing seems to realise it is in its own interest to allow workers to move forward, says Han Dongfang
Around 60 healthcare workers have been protesting on the steps of the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Hospital for 47 days now demanding social insurance contributions that are about a dozen years in arrears. Photograph of protesting hospital workers taken from Weibo.
CHIP STARNES, an American businessman, used to run a medical-equipment factory just outside Beijing. For six days last month however he gained renown as an impromptu prisoner. His own employees had become his jailers, until they released him on June 27th.
Han Dongfang talks to one of the Chinese bus drivers deported from Singapore after staging a high-profile strike in the city state last November.


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